Not that I needed any convincing, but as a child I remember hearing all the old refrains about reading, repeated with the intent of drawing young people into the world of books. A book is your gateway to the world! Books can really take you places! Escape into reading! While I agree with these simple statements and have certainly traveled much farther in the world through book covers than I ever have in a real life, I can’t say that I find myself motivated to read books for these particular reasons at this point in my life. The stories that appeal to me are more likely to act less as an escape, and more closely like a mirror, causing me to examine myself and my own life more deeply as I vicariously follow along with one of a fictional character.
When I refer to books as mirrors, I certainly don’t mean that I choose books with 33 year old characters with outgrown hairdos, bushy eyebrows in need of waxing, and three crazed children making cameos that involve wiping their noses on her shirt, biting her shoulder, or whining about homework. Of course not, because honestly, would anyone buy that book? No, I simply mean that I find myself intrigued by stories that portray lives that may not be same in any solid or tangible way, but have parallel undercurrents that make me feel somehow reassured; I am not alone in my personal feelings, and others (even if they are fictional) have struggled in their own similar ways. These books invariably make me want to hold close the ones I love.
The reassessments and the declarations of “I’m going to do this better,” whatever *this* may be today, usually lose some of their ferocity after the last page has been turned and the book returned to the shelf or the library, but a remnant of that feeling that overtook my heart and my head remains there, just under the surface. My eternal hope is that I can remember to draw upon that feeling– that just-for-a-moment complete definition of who I honorably want to be– at the times when I need it most. When I am annoyed at my husband for forgetting something, when my daughter screams at me in her forceful toddler anger, when my climbing-loving baby runs across the couch for the twelfth time in so many minutes, or when my oldest throws the nastiest attitude imaginable my way. Those are the moments that I need most to be able to dip into my mentally saved files of characters and stories that inspired me to be better. That’s what I get out of escaping into the world of a novel: a reality check of what is important in my life. Perhaps not as catchy as those old phrases from my youth, but valuable nonetheless.
This is a reprint from February 2009. Look at the recommended posts below to find some of those titles Dawn loved, whether she saw herself in them or not.
Dawn regularly contributes money to her local library in the form of late fines. She can be found captivating a very small audience at my thoughts exactly.